Water lanterns lit up the fountain on McKeldin Mall Friday as hundreds of University of Maryland students celebrated the Vietnamese Student Association’s annual Lunar Lanterns event.
The celebration is one of the association’s biggest fall events, one week before the Mid-Autumn Festival — a widely celebrated holiday in some Asian cultures.
“There are a lot of cities in Vietnam that are known for stringing up these warm, bright lanterns,” junior civil engineering major and VSA internal vice president Mia Tran said. “I think it just creates a really cozy atmosphere and really brings the community together.”
The VSA strung lanterns along the McKeldin Mall fountain to represent new beginnings and happiness — a well-known tradition in the Vietnamese city of Hoi An.
Friday’s event began with performances from student groups across campus, including Terpwushu, PandemoniUM, Tianyi Dance Team and a Chinese yo-yo organization. The performances ranged from martial arts to traditional Chinese dance.
“We try to reach out to a range of different performers and anyone that’s looking to collaborate with us or show their craft,” Mia Tran said.
The event also featured the core cultural aspects of a traditional Vietnamese lantern festival, including food, music and art in addition to dance. The VSA catered food from Jumbo Jumbo Cafe, a Taiwanese restaurant in College Park, and offered bubble tea.
The event concluded with a countdown for attendees to release their water lanterns into the fountain. The soft glow of the lights shimmered in the fountain as attendees enjoyed soft music and the company of others celebrating Vietnamese culture.
Freshman nursing major Trinity Huynh said she had never attended an event like the Lunar Lanterns celebration before.
“I’m very glad we have VSA because in my past school there wasn’t a lot of Asian representation and I wasn’t able to connect with any of my fellow Asians,” Huynh said. “Coming here, being able to connect with people that actually know my culture is very amazing.”
The VSA has served as a voice for Vietnamese culture at this university since 1978. The association holds cultural events throughout the year.
Junior civil engineering major Kevin Chan said that he has interacted with other Asian organizations on campus, but always comes back to VSA because of the friends and memorable experiences he has made.
For junior bioengineering major and VSA president Megan Tran, the association is a way for her to proudly express her culture and celebrate it with her lifelong friends. She said she appreciates how Vietnamese culture emphasizes that family can bring people together.
“Family doesn’t have to be blood,” said Megan Tran. “You make family here and then you can consider them family for the rest of your life.”
While VSA hosted the event, the association’s members encouraged all students to attend its celebrations.
The Lunar Lanterns event welcomed students of all backgrounds and the university’s alumni to return and visit the association, Chan, a VSA public relations executive board member, noted.
“Vietnamese Student Association doesn’t mean that we’re seeking out those that only were raised with Vietnamese culture,” Mia Tran said. “We’re seeking out those who have an interest in learning about Vietnamese culture.”